Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monte's Out, 5e Open Playtest Starts and 3.5 Reprints?!?

Monte's announcement. Some highlights:
"However, I want to take this time to stress that my differences were not with my fellow designers, Rob Schwalb and Bruce Cordell."

"Due to my non-disclosure agreement, as well as a desire to keep things on a professional level, I have no intention of going into further detail at this time. (Mostly, I just hate drama, and would rather talk about more interesting things.)"
Not mentioning Mike Mearls in the "goodwill disclaimer," speaks volumes.

Mike Mearls is saddened and surprised. He also announces May 24 as the start of the open playtest.

Joethelawyer has some interesting B&N pre-order links. 3.5 Core books, with errata.


Now, 3.5 core books sells like hotcakes on ebay. I sold a spare set of the three core books last week for $75.

$65 to $100 is typical. Consistently typical. A PH alone has been averaging about $35. Discounting odd outlying results, $25 to $45 is usual. And has been for the past year that I've been keeping up with 3.5 auctions. And we're talking a lot of auctions, every week.

Hell, the HC splats go for around $20+ a piece. This isn't just "collector's" scarfing these things up. I wonder how many non-Pathfinder customers have been playing 3.5? And spreading the game?

I think WotC may be hedging their bets. I wouldn't be surprised to see an OD&D anniversary type set and maybe a real BECMI box.

It is not a good sign, when one of the main designers of your new edition, jumps ship right before the open playtest. Especially when that designer has the profile of Monte Cook.

Good luck, Monte.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Random Table - Urban Mendicants

Submitted for your approval, 12 holy (or unholy) beggars, raising a ruckus in the streets.

1. Bomos the Mad - Chaotic-Neutral. An archetypal, crazy-eyed, wild-haired, filthy Prophet O' Doom, wearing a sandwich board declaring "The End is Nigh!" In the midst of his typically mad proclamations, he'll utter something only the PC's should know, or another secret, of relevance to their current doings.

2. Rafnk the Legless - F2. Chaotic-Good. A humble servant of his god, he's taken a vow of poverty. Rolls around on a crude cart, propelled by his mighty arms. A former adventurer, he has dated knowledge of the first three levels of the dungeon. Has a Dagger +1, that bestows 10% Magic Resistance.

3. Muad the Greasy - Chaotic-Evil. Claims to serve some god, that's completely unknown to everyone else. Wears soiled finery. Slick, oily and smarmy. Host to an alien symbiote, which grants him psionics. He murders and eats 1 beggar, or other homeless person, per week.

4. Whomis the Holy - C2. Neutral-Good. A benevolent, poor servant of a beneficent higher power. Cares for the sick and needy of the streets. If a PC donates 10 GP or more, they will receive a one-time blessing and the next Critical Miss they suffer, will become a Critical Hit.

5. Mahra of the Shadows - Illusionist L7. Chaotic-Neutral. Serves a vengeful, scary deity. Only seen at night. Stalks and murders the more parasitic denizens of the slums.

6. Mother Velvet - F3 Transvestite Half-Orc. Neutral-Evil. Bears the symbol of an ancient, near-forgotten deity of strife. Commands 20 or so orphan children, who collect information, which Mother sells to various clients.

7. Old Gideon - Lawful-Good. A polymorphed Silver Dragon, he's an amnesiac and has lost all knowledge of his former self. Wanders the streets, begging and telling stories about famous Paladins and other heroes.

8. Thak the Barbarian - FL4. Chaotic-Neutral. A barbarian prince, blinded in war. Stalks the alleys naked, demanding tribute for his patron demon. Which he spends on prostitutes and cheap wine. Will usually be carrying a makeshift weapon of some sort or another. Occasionally, will get his hands on a sword, eventually losing it after passing out in a drunken stupor.

9. Susannah of the Scarlet Sash - C4. Chaotic-Good. A Sacred Prostitute, Susannah became disenchanted with her religious organization, which showed more devotion to pecuniary concerns, than their mission of spreading... the word. Susannah has taken the good news to the streets! She wears a Scarlett Sash that's been blessed by her deity, confers a bonus of +2 on all her rolls and grants immunity to all diseases.

10. Ol' Bear - F3. Chaotic-Good. Reincarnated as a Bear. Something of a mascot to the people of the city, they'll be very sore if anything happens to this gregarious street preacher.

11. Toisim - A demon in human guise. Chaotic-Evil. HD: 6. AC: 4. # Att - 2. Dmg: 1-3. Aside from the usual characteristics of abyssal denizens (per the MM) he may cast Suggestion 1/day, Improved Phantasmal Force 2/day. He can implant false memories in others, a task which requires 1 full Turn of uninterrupted concentration, during which he must maintain line of sight with his victim. Save negates. He is building a small army, composed of the poor and dispossessed, who thanks to a whole lot of memory alteration, think him a reincarnated demi-god, capable of miraculous feats.

12. Baylam the Black - C2. Neutral-Evil. Hunted by the authorities, for fostering the cause of a blatantly forbidden deity, Baylam has no followers, no friends and sucks at begging, so he usually resorts to theft. Still has dreams of becoming an evil overlord.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In Which I Embark Upon a New Career

While engaged in starting a new post-divorce life, something occurred to me. Out of the several different things I've done to make a living, lo these many years, I enjoyed myself the most when I worked in the insurance field.

Yeah, that might sound strange. But the whole, convoluted mess of finance and esoteric formula can be rather fun. But, if I was going down that road, I wanted to do it right. And have the opportunity to help people, while doing so.

This afternoon, I was offered a position as a Life & Health insurance agent. Which, I'm accepting! I know quite a bit about Life & Health, Annuities, etc., already and I'm very familiar with how the business itself works. My prior time in insurance was on the underwriting side of things, so now I get to see how the other half lives.

My new boss and I really hit it off and seem to be on the same page. I like his style and approach to the insurance business and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a gentleman, such as himself.

So. Phase II, complete. Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Week's Conan Pic - Conan Crucified!

I was loath to change that awesome pic of Conan and Belit, but when I found this little gem by Sanjulian, I decided it would be ok! As always, This Week's Conan Pic will be showcased in a widget on the left. A link to the full text of the story, courtesy of Project Gutenberg, is provided.

A Witch Shall Be Born isn't my favorite Conan story, but it does feature one of the most memorable passages in the series. Conan Crucified! And his savage battle, with the Vultures!

In his dulled ears sounded the louder beat of wings. Lifting his head he watched with the burning glare of a wolf the shadows wheeling above him. He knew that his shouts would frighten them away no longer. One dipped--dipped--lower and lower. Conan drew his head back as far as he could, waiting with terrible patience. The vulture swept in with a swift roar of wings.
R. E. Howard - A Witch Shall Be Born

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Black Blade/Usherwood Pub. OSRIC Imprint

ADDENDUM: The Black Blade website has an error and is quoting an inaccurate, overly high amount for shipping charges! Email Jon, address below, for a correct shipping quote. Priority mail to my address was $11.00, which may vary a bit, depending upon your location.

I'm reposting my pics of the Black Blade/Usherwood Publishing OSRIC imprint.

grodog had asked me if I could migrate the original post over, so he would have a ready reference to point folks towards, when they asked for some comparison pics. Unfortunately, I only recently found his request, which was made several months ago! Sorry! I hope this will still be of use.

A word, or two. The Black Blade/Usherwood version costs $26.00, which is a whole whopping .80 cents more than the Lulu version! The BB/U is thicker, wider, taller, has a sturdier binding and to quote Mr. Jon Hershberger:
-we've added additional art selections from John Bingham, Steve Robertson, Mark Allen, Peter FItzpatrick, Peter Mullen, Brian Thomas and Jim Holloway;
- Jason Zavoda's expanded index is four pages long, and there's now a two page index of tables and charts following the index; and
- we've upped the grade of paper for the book to 70# (not a sexy change to OSRIC, but it does add to the quality and the 'heft' of the book); the hardback OSRIC is going to weigh in at just over 3 pounds when it's done.
All of which is to say, as someone who owns both versions, I'd definitely buy the Black Blade/Usherwood edition!

What's more, it was packaged to withstand a nuclear explosion!

You'll need to email Jon if you want to purchase, as their checkout on the website isn't working. Shipping is via Priority Mail and Black Blade charges the actual shipping costs, so there ya go! :)

The pic compares the BB/UP version, on top, with the Lulu version, on the bottom.

Here's a side by side pic.

And a couple of pics showing one of the new pics, and then the snazzy red endpapers!

If you asked me what my favorite post TSR, RPG books is, I'd be hard pressed to come up with any one product. But, the Black Blade/Usherwood OSRIC imprint would be on my shortlist! It's all kinds of awesome and handsome as hell!

I Blame Michael Moorcock!

Neil Gaiman already snatched the perfect title for this Sub-Header

It's almost invariable. For almost 30 years, in almost every D&D campaign I've ever run.

The PC's end up travelling in time, or to another dimension, or plane, or another planet. Usually all of the above and on multiple occasions. Sometimes they come back. Sometimes, they never do.

I blame Michael Moorcock!

At 14 I was beginning my career as a DM, discovering Appendix N and shortly thereafter, scarfing up every Michael Moorcock novel I could find. For years, I named him my favorite author. He no longer holds quite so elevated a place in my literary pantheon, but I'll always love him for the Elric stories, the tales of Hawkmoon and most especially, The War Hound and the World's Pain. Still, while I appreciate authors whose work demands to be considered as a whole, instead of merely by its parts, I eventually tired of Mr. Moorcock. Feeling his work had become too derivative of itself, I still haven't read the last two Elric novels, The Skrayling Tree and The White Wolf's Son. I left off with The Dreamthief's Daughter.

As others have noticed,  I suspect that 14 is the perfect, or near perfect age to read Michael Moorcock. Perhaps, he's one of those authors, just subject to being outgrown.

That thought makes me a little sad.

Maybe I just have less patience for all the allegory, allusions and what-not. I've become... exhausted, when it comes to grappling with philosophical questions. Still, there's always been a belief in and hope for humanity, in Mr. Moorcock's work. I think I need to re-read him, through middle-aged eyes.

If you're going to steal ideas for your campaign, steal from the best!

All that trippy dimension-hopping and those Multiversal Conjuctions. The bizarre peoples, entities and worlds, were at the forefront of my Appendix N inner landscape. The Dark Ship and Prince Gaynor the Damned were only two of the ideas I swiped from Mr. Moorcock, for use in some campaign, or another. Foremost, I think, was the idea of frequent inter-dimensional and inter-planar travel.

It goes all the way back to my Kastmaria campaign. Around 4th level, the PC's traveled to an Ice Age world for a few hours, to rescue an absent-minded mage from his folly. They killed some cave-men and befriended a Silver Dragon, who was eager to escape its frozen hell and followed the PC's through the gate, back to their home world.

A few levels later, they accidentally ended up 150 years in the future and never went back. Then, there was the Bazaar, the city at the center of the Multi-verse (partially inspired by/swiped from Robert Asprin's Myth series as this was pre-Planescape.) They spent a lot of time off and on, there, having adventures, engaging in their war with the Magic-Users of Sorcerer's Isle. Saving the city from destruction, at one point, when a mad mage attempted to destroy the magical machinery that created the city's plane of existence.

Around 12th level, they went to an alternate Earth, where an evil Merlin released the Tarrasque on England, just to cover his tracks and rid himself of his failed attempt at creating a messiah, named King Arthur. At 14th, they took a 3 Turn trip to Avernus, to rescue that absent-minded mage again.

They went to a demi-plane to kill Merlin. King Balston was on some weird planar pocket, when he killed some weird, planar Dragon. I think Sir Alexian Balthafore was also in some weird, extra-dimensional space when he dueled with Pharj Mudast, all alone, at the end of the campaign.

Fortunately, he won! It would have sucked for Darren to end a campaign that spanned thousands of hours (Not 50, Mr. Mearls,) dying at the hand of his archenemy.

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few episodes.

"W" Interferes with my Plans

Decades later, in my long-running 3.x campaign, the PC's started on world A, quickly went to world B, ended up spending most of the campaign on world C, then, back to world B, but centuries before their first visit, for the last few sessions of the game.

Actually, its a bit more complex than that. That campaign was an amalgam of PC's from two different games, which became one campaign around 6th level, or so. All very convoluted and I'm too lazy to bother remembering exactly how that all came about, but  President George W. Bush's interference had a lot to do with it! He signed the order calling Josh back into service and shipped him off to Afghanistan for a year and a half, to fight terrorists.

I doubt that explaining to the President, that I needed Josh to fight orcs & dragons instead would have helped matters, so I didn't bother trying.

Oh, Shit! I Just Remembered!

The first branch of that campaign actually started in the Forgotten Realms! I have ran a published Campaign Setting! For about Two Sessions!!! I then, sent them elsewhere. I prefer discovering a milieu alongside my players. My psyche's intent, blazing a trail, far more fiery and personal than a published setting ever could be.

So, There's this Undead Apocalypse in The Black Mete

Well, what's gonna happen now? The PC's might have enough x.p. to make 3rd level. Might. Kinda doubt it. The civilized lands could muster about... 7,000 forces. Several Clerics. A few MU's. One Dragon would pitch in, to protect his investment. If, he absolutely has to!

Vs. 12k or so Zombies and Ghouls. That's tough. I'm thinking of breaking out Delta's Book of War. I owe him a review and wanted to make it a proper play-test.

I think a certain Lich is going to become involved. Still working out all the implications. The players want to do something. What can they do?

They need a few levels, I think. At least. Hmm...

You know...

I bet they would accept a quest, to find a way to stop all the undead madness. One giving them the opportunity to gain several levels.

Getting them out of the way for a little while, would work out pretty well. But, they need more time than that to gain some levels and prepare for what I've got brewing in the back of my mind.

Maybe the quest could take them to another world, for a while. Or, another plane. Or, backwards in time. Forwards?

My mind just wants to go there with it.

I blame Michael Moorcock!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Conan and the Cheap DM - Updated Repost

At the Underdark Gazette, I posted a series on running famous fantasy worlds, using only resources freely and legally available on the net. The first one was Conan and the Cheap DM, for which I later posted a 2nd part, after finding additional useful info.
I've consolidated those posts, updated the links and added a thing or two.

Conan and the Cheap DM: A Guide to Free Resources, for Running the Hyborian Age

A few years ago, the thought occurred to me that there were so many free resources available on the web, that enough material could be garnered to run several of the most famous fantasy worlds as RPG settings. So, with nothing better to do, I set about to see what all I could find. I started with R. E. Howard’s Hyborian Age and quickly found more than enough!

So, here’s a list of resources, for DM’s who might be interested in dropping a group of players into Conan’s world!

Our first stop, is Jason Vey’s Classic Edition Fantasy Resources Page. There, you will find his OD&D supplements: The Age of Conan and The Secrets of Acheron, as well as a DM screen for the set! These feature rules for running an OD&D campaign in the Hyborian Age and the main focus is on adapting the game to Howard’s setting. There’s not a lot of info on the milieu itself, but definitely of use. Contains an excerpt of Howard’s essay The Hyborian Age.

Next we come to The Hyborian Age page, by Thulsa. This site has everything you need! Gods, Demons, a Gazetteer and Maps! Plenty of Maps! Not to mention magic items, famous sorcerers and other personages. The crunch is d20, but if you’re playing an Old School game, it’s easy enough to make your own and truth to tell, you would probably prefer to anyway! The site also reproduces Howard’sThe Hyborian Age essay and a ton of other stuff I haven’t mentioned. Including rules for using Black Lotus!

Vincent Darlage’s Conan d20 site is another fantastic resource! Lots of info on important NPC’s and a ton of really, really cool Weird Tales artwork and covers!

I’m not sure how complete it is, but the Conan Wiki has a Gazetteer and more.Thulsa’s Gazetteer, above, looks to be far superior, but you still might find the Wiki useful. 

Speaking of Wiki’s, you might find the Age of Conan Wiki, to be worth your time. 

Amra the Lion has several goodies, including a Gazetteer, Maps, Audio of R. E. Howard Conan stories and more!

Mongoose Publishing has a free Map of the Hyborian Age available for download, here. Another version from Mongoose, can be found here.

For some scholarly information, you may find Mysteries of the Hyborian Age by Dale Rippke, to be inspiring.

This one looks fun! Someone put up the Hyborian Age Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. It’s rather large and contains a ton of Marvel Pictures! For those who aren’t sticklers for purity, an excellent resource!

Hyborian War is an archive of an old Play-by-Mail game, which contains Kingdom Reports and what-not, which you may find useful. No idea if this is still going on or not. The various kingdom reports have some detailed maps of the regions and are in pdf format.

Dragonsfoot # 13 has an AD&D Conversion of Thulsa’s Tower of the Elephant adventure.

Conan: Savage Hyboria is a Savage Worlds Conan conversion, which might provide some useful tidbits.

Here's a Castles & Crusades fan made Conan Supplement by David Bell. I couldn’t find the hosting page, so it's a Direct Link. And here's a thread at the Troll Lord Games forums, with some more conversion work.

And check out Andrew Picciau’s page for his Hyborian Adventures True d20 supplement. A 34 page PDF. Also, there's a 16 page Bestiary, here. Not sure if it's by the same author, or not.

the venomous pao hosts a couple of BoL Hyborian Age adventures, written by G-Man.

Of course, Howard’s stories are the richest source of Hyborian knowledge. Scroll down this Project Guttenberg index, to find a ton of Kick-Ass R. E. Howard Adventures!

Another copy of R. E. Howard’s The Hyborian Age, at Manybooks. Read online, or download as a PDF. The Author’s Page for Mr. Howard, has more R.E.H. Goodness!

And if You Haven't Chosen a System, Yet...

There's always ZeFRS – The Retro-Clone of the rules from TSR’s old Conan RPG by David Cook. You can download it here.

Or, the free version of Barbarians of Lemuria, might just hit that sweet spot, system-wise!

Well, that was Easy!

There you go! Everything we need to run the Hyborian Age and then some!

Got any Hyborian Resources, I've missed? Leave a link in the comments!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In which I run Death Frost Doom

Running Death Frost Doom! 

Or, how to liven(?!) up a Sandbox in just five hours.

What the Hell am I Going to Do, Tonight?

For reasons, various & sundry, I hadn't gamed in over a month. But, Friday Night's Birmingham Meet-up Group game was fast approaching. And while I had fully intended on doing some in-depth work on my mega-dungeon and re-working/fleshing out the abandoned temple in Larm, I had done neither. Between my personal life being so chaotic of late, and just not feeling it, creativity-wise, come Friday morning I had managed to do little more than jack and squat! I did redo my map of the campaign area. 

Last session, the players expressed interest in that abandoned temple in Larm. In my game, it's an old, locked up church, once devoted to Tyr. In the Larm supplement, the temple is supposed to serve as a short adventuring intro, for newbs really, and I needed it to be more than that. The players had just finished defending Larm against a Goblin Siege! The temple, as presented, would be rather dull after all that and I needed it to move things along, not get them started.

Oh, I could just wing it. I do some of my best DMing, by the seat of my pants.

I walked over to my gaming shelf, eyeing the spines of books, supplements and modules. And my eyes alighted upon my LotFP collection. It hit me:

The Session's Dramatis Personae

John - Itchy Triggerfish - A Neutral Good 2nd Level Fish-man Cleric.
David - Goat - A Neutral-Good 2nd Level Human Fighter.
Stephen - Romdybout - A Neutral-Evil 2nd Level Elven Magic-User.
2nd David -Malcuth - A Neutral 2nd Level Half-Orc Fighter.

That Door is Barred to You!

The temple door is sealed! The former abbot of the temple, now a crazy hermit (see The Village of Larm) informs the party that it may only be opened by Orison of War, the temple sword, stolen over forty years ago by Gralph, a traitor who was a secret devotee of a Death Cult. Gralph may have taken the sword to the Cultists sanctuary, which had been located upon a nearby mountain.

You're all going to fuckin' die!

Zeke tries to warn them. Thanks to some diplomacy and a Friends spell, the party gathers a little info on Zeke's doings and the Cult of Duvan' Ku.

Zeke tries to stop them, but they easily overpower the old man and eventually find themselves passing through the eerie graveyard, into the Cabin.

We're in the Painting? Huh? I'm doing What?!?!

We have some fun, while the party investigates the Cabin.

"Back when you humans enslaved my people, you would make mirrors that wouldn't reflect an Elf. So we couldn't see our own beauty! That's an evil mirror," the Elven MU explains.

"We wait four hours, to see if the Half-Orc Fighter shows back up."

"Goat, a light shines upon you, in the painting, as you sip from an ornate chalice."

Good, creepy fun. The players are interested in what's going on and having fun with the weird atmosphere of the place.

This is a good thing! Two of the four players are old CoC hands. I think I'm doing a decent job of building the appropriate atmosphere and playing upon the weirdness. But, I have little experience running horror. I can manage to creep out players, on occasion. Often, to quote Stephen King, I settle and "...go for the gross-out." 

So, as awesome as Mr. Raggi's module is, I'm not counting on being able to induce heebie-jeebies, all by myself. I'm relying upon their collusion, the players enjoyment of the weird and the macabre.

When the DM Commits and the Players Commit, you can create that space, where the magic of D&D happens.

Save or Die!!!!!!!!!!!!

Into the crypts, the party descends. The Half-Orc Fighter incautiously bangs on an Organ made of Bones.

Five seconds later, he fails his Save, the Yellow Mold killing his ass, dead!

David (2nd David, to differentiate him from the 1st David, sitting at the table) rolls up a Halfling Thief, who conveniently, had been shadowing the party.

Crypts and More Weird Shit 

The party doesn't screw around with the crypts, much. They only bust one open and find only a corpse. They manage to avoid most difficulties, though the Halfling is now under a curse. They screw around with a few things. The MU finds the monocle, enabling him to read the script of Duvan' Ku. And an evil Golem manual. The Cleric, a good-aligned Fish-man, by the way, almost finds himself with a nasty Tattoo. Having to scrape away some scales, slows him up and helps the party get him under control. The MU is more careful about reading things aloud, after that.

Goat tosses a coin into a basin and his 18/32 Strength shoots up to 19! He's stoked!

The Halfling tries his luck, loses a point of Charisma. And Int. And Con. He finally stops, when he loses a point of Dex.

Of Course they Kill the Damn Plant! 

They arrive at the corridor, leading to room 22. Using fire, they kill the plant, from a distance. It burns up nicely, clearing the tunnel in the ceiling, as well as their path forward. The weird music stops.

They enter the room beyond, indeed discovering the sword, Orison of War, as well as a few other things. Like another evil book for the MU to drool over!

The MU reads what's written upon the alter. They talk among themselves. But don't begin searching anything, really. Save for the alter. A few minutes later, the crashing sound of multiple, loosely mortared brick coverings, smashing upon the floor, over and over and over again, reaches their ears.

"We're Screwed!" John exclaims, a wide grin upon his face.

"I think maybe this module was made for higher level characters," Stephen opines. He's new to my game.

"No. 2nd level is fine for this adventure. It's meant to be an actual challenge," my Cheery, Neutral, If You Die, You Die, DM Personae, smiles at him.

We Take a Cig Break - And One More Important Factor

David, John and I step outside. Leaving Stephen, who is running the evil elven MU and 2nd David, who is running the halfling Thief, by themselves.

One more thing. A few sessions ago, 1st David - Goat the Fighter - found a sword. It's blade is a light, metallic blue. Etched into the cross-hilt, is the stylized symbol of a Door. He has no idea that it's sentient. Or, that it can cast Dimension Door, once per day, at a rather high level of magic use. It's also a bit cowardly and named "Sir Robin's Discretion."

In Which, Things Don't Go the Way I Expect 

I expect the party to begin frantically searching for secret doors. The elf had already blown his chances to automatically notice such things. Still, the MU believes there is at least one door. And that he needs a sacrifice to open it. The MU casts Spider Climb from a scroll.

The halfling thief attempts to backstab Goat!

And fails. They roll initiative. Goat misses. Things have taken a turn for the interesting, as one of the possibilities Mr. Raggi wrote into his module, plays out. The evil MU, having picked up some of the lore and magic of Duvan' Ku, gets into the spirit of things and decides that there will be Blood!

In Which, Again, Things Don't Go the Way I Expect

When the MU casts Magic Missile at Goat, I'm puzzled. I thought he was setting the halfling up to die and be the fall guy. Even if the thief had hit and the MU had done the max on a MM, they wouldn't have taken Goat out. The MU could have cast MM at the thief and then claim he was helping them deal with the treacherous halfling. But, it had been a long time since Stephen played AD&D. He miscalculated Goat's hit points and the thief's backstab abilities.

The Cleric comes to his friend's aid and shoots his harpoon gun at the MU. The MU tries some fast-talking, but no one is buying.

The Thief asks for quarter and tries to cut a deal. As the zombies approach the entrance, the thief finally decides to search for secret doors. Goat takes a stand in the doorway. That's when "Sir Robin's Discretion" makes itself know and tells Goat to call the Cleric to his side. The sword has a firm grasp on depth, spatial relations, etc., and has just enough power/casting-level to take Goat and one ally on a Dimension Door jaunt, to outside the complex. Logically, the sword chooses the only person Goat can trust. The Cleric.

In a burst of light, the pair are gone!

The MU Spider-Climbs his ass out of the room, and up the tunnel in the corridor, as the zombies approach.

Gee 2nd David, I'm about to Kill your PC, Again!

Alone, the thief scrambles up to the top of a large, monstrous statue, vainly seeking to delay by a few moments, the doom which is upon him.

A thought occurs to me, a way he might could actually survive.

I'd already killed him once this evening. And he's a new player. This was his second ever session of D&D.

The others had already written him off as toast. He didn't have the playing experience to think of creative ways, he might save his life from a DM's assault.

I decide the situation calls for a twist and that if I'm going to do it, I might as well make it interesting.

"The angle is very, very bad, but if you could use your weight to wobble the statue, you might be able to aim it to crash into that secret door."

I give him an overly generous, 50% chance of pulling off this improbable action!

If successful, he would have a shot. If he was willing to cut a deal with what lay beyond. I tell 2nd David to roll percentile dice.

He rolls very, very high, blowing it!

The statue topples off its mark, crushing a couple of zombies, while dozens more, begin feasting upon his flesh. The Halfling, whose name I didn't record, meets a slow, horrifying end!

Ok, the players all laugh! But it must be horrifying for that little halfling!


The MU makes his escape, utilizing a scroll of Invisibility once he makes it above ground, carrying two books of evil, evil magic.

The Cleric and Fighter find themselves under attack from four ghouls. I decide that since they're at the edge of the graveyard, if they can take out the ghouls in two rounds, then they can escape, before a large number of undead discover and descend upon them. Otherwise, its 1d6 ghouls joining the party, on the third round and every round, thereafter.

Goat and Itchy easily dispatch the ghouls, within two rounds. I give Fighters Cleave in my game, which provides Goat the edge he needs! The pair of good aligned adventurers, high-tail it out of there!

Meanwhile, some 12,000 undead begin making their way down the mountainside, heading for the tiny village of Larm, population 112, below.

DMing is Like Having Sex...

When it's below average and kind of an off, I feel really tired, when its over.

When its good, I feel both exhausted and exhilarated, afterwards.

When its really, really good, when its Great, I just feel exhilarated! I feel like I can play all night and will usually stay up for hours, afterwards.

It was after midnight when we wrapped up Death Frost Doom. I was wide awake and bursting with energy. We hung out for an hour afterwards, laughing and talking about everything that happened. John and David making their plans for the next session and trying to figure out how to defend Larm from the Undead Apocalypse. And what to do about Stephen's PC. I arrived home and didn't go to sleep until about 4:00 AM.

So, in Conclusion

So. What happens now? Not sure yet. But running Death Frost Doom was a blast! My players seemed to have fun.

Even 2nd David, who lost two PC's.

I'm thinking of working Hammers of the God into things, somehow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

OSR News - Friday, April 6, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics Goes to the Printer - PDF's Sent Out to Pre-Order Customers!

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG by Joseph Goodman. Goodman Games. Available in Hardcover for $39.99. Limited Edition Foil Cover Edition $69.99. 480 pages.
Glory & Gold Won by Sorcery & Sword
You’re no hero.
You’re an adventurer: a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets. You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons, and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them.

Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you: turn the page…
Rules Set: DCC RPG, an OGL system that cross-breeds Appendix N with a streamlined version of 3E.
If you pre-ordered the game by April 1, you should have received your email to download the PDF! Also, for those wondering, here's a quote from Mr. Goodman about the production quality of the DCC RPG:
DCC RPG will be printed on 70# uncoated offset. That is a durable, heavyweight paper stock near the upper end of what most printers keep in stock. It is not the "slick" type paper that you see used in color products; it is a more textured paper. When you read RPG products that feel like they are on flimsy paper, that is typically 50# stock (which I don't use). The real test is whether you can see the blacks through the page - i.e. is a dark illustration visible on the other side of the page. With 50# paper, it is; with 70#, it is not.

As long as we are on the subject - I am also using Smythe-sewn binding. That means nothing to most people but it is the difference between a heavily-referenced RPG falling apart at the binding or not. Smythe-sewn features an adhesive binding AND sewn threads to hold the binding together. All those RPG's you bought that fell apart after a couple months of use...well, they used adhesive only. Smythe-sewn is more expensive but it is worth it.
I woke up at 2:00 AM, saw the email with the download link and spent an hour scanning through the PDF! It looks like it'll be a blast to run! Patrons, corruptions and critical-hits, oh my!!!

A New Release from Guy Fullerton!

Dungeon Module F3 Many Gates of the Gann by Guy Fullerton. Chaotic Henchmen Productions. Currently Available in print from FRP Games for $9.58. 28 pages.
Barbarous hyena-men who raid villages and kidnap girl-children? Bah! Unremarkable in our world! But when these raiders retreat safely past ancient sculptures that vaporize intruders, into heretofore unopened vaults believed to hold a weapon of primal terror, and past the gates that guard ancient treasures never beheld by man? Aye! Now these are rumors worthy of adventure! What bold souls will dare pass into centuries-old chambers protected by the Many Gates of the Gann?

Many Gates of the Gann includes complete descriptions and maps for a three-level adventure site, and is easily adaptable to most campaign settings. It is the latest in a series of modules designed for either independent or interconnected use.

System: For use with 1st Edition AD&D, and largely compatible with 2nd edition, the Basic game, the Original game, as well as the various clones and simulacra.
Format: 28 pages, saddle stitched. Retro-style detached cover with maps on the cover interior.
Author: Guy Fullerton
Artists: Stefan Poag, Andy "ATOM" Taylor, Zhu Bajie, John Larrey, Jason Sholtis.
More S&W from FGG!

The Northlands Saga 3 - The Death Curse of Sven Oakenfist by Kenneth Spencer. Frog God Games. Swords & Wizardry version available in a Print/PDF combo for $8.99. PDF only for $4.99. 32 pages. Pathfinder version avail. for the same price.
In the Northlands the laws of hospitality are absolute, to violate them is to
seek dishonor or even death. What then must our heroes do when their host asks
them to fulfill his dying wish, to face down the wight of the legendary viking
Sven Oakenfist and convince him to lift a curse laid with his own last breath?
2E Gets Itself Cloned!

Myth & Magic Player's and Game Master's Starter Guides by Tom Ryan. New Haven Games. Available for Free in PDF format. 148 and 120 pages, respectively.
1) The Player’s Starter Guide – A huge introduction to Myth & Magic. All of the races, the four iconic classes, and the most-essential rules to take your hero from the upstart trenches of Level 1 to the renown of Level 10.
2) The Game Master’s Starter Guide – GMs get a ton of monsters, magic items, traps, poisons, diseases and advice to challenge their entire gaming table! We brought it all back.. and we added some twists and turns that keep the salted veterans guessing! This very well may be the greatest GM primer to any RPG … ever! Also includes a free adventure, The Shattered Academy!
More Free Stuff!

Check out this Baroque Character Sheet that Chris The Aspiring Lich made.

Let's Keep the Free Train a Rollin'!

Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque by Jack W. Shear. Available in PDF for Free! 116 pages.
I have made a compendium of all of my Gothic Fantasy gaming bits available for free. You can download it as a pdf here from Google docs. Here's what you get in the compendium: an introduction to Gothic Fantasy, my home campaign setting, three new classes compatible with old-school fantasy games, my house rules, 44 monsters, 26 spells, 7 magic items, and more random tables that I cared to count. Much of this has yet to see the light of day on the blog. It's 116 pages, about the size of a commercial product.
And Now, a New Release from Expeditious Retreat Press!

Advanced Adventures #23 Down the Shadowvein by Joseph Browning. Expeditious Retreat Press. Available in Print for $14.00 and in PDF for $7.00. 24 pages.
Down the Shadowvein is an OSRIC(tm) module designed for 6-10 adventures of levels 3-5.
You carefully load your canoes and launch into the fast-moving waters of the underground river named Shadowvein. The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom behind you, the veracity of the map that is to be your guide into the dark unknown will soon be tested. Hopefully what is written is accurate, but if it is not, your wits, wile, and brawn should serve you well as you journey down the Shadowvein!
Down the Shadowvein picks up where The Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom left off, but it can be played by those who have not explored that module. Down the Shadowvein continues in The Mouth of the Shadowvein.
Rolling 'Em Up Old School! 

3d6 In Order by Richard Tongue. Available in Print for $12.02. 91 pages.
3D6 In Order is finally out! The new OSR role-playing game from the creator of OD&DITIES, Richard Tongue, is now available. Designed as a 'beer and pretzels' role-playing game, this book contains enough material for years of adventure, while being simple enough that a group can have a game going within ten minutes. All the standard classes are there, as well as a few other ones for fun. A one-book game – no mountains of supplements required – everything is present in this single slim volume, which contains no less than eight races, ten classes, seven spell lists, dozens of monsters and magic items. All you need is your imagination...and some dice, of course!
By the Gods, Let's Have Another Groovy OSR Freebie! 

The Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 by Carter Soles and Spawn of Endra. Available in PDF for FREE! 42 pages.
I am thrilled to announce that the Lands of Ara Compendium 2011 is now available as a free, downloadable pdf here. It contains over 40 pages of game content culled from this blog, plus top-notch illustrations and artwork by Johnathan and Daisey Bingham, Kelvin Green, and The Marg. I also want to thank Spawn of Endra for all his diligent and inspired work on the editing and layout of the voluminous material here.
A New Release from Faster Monkey!

In the Shadow of Mount Rotten by Joel Sparks. Faster Monkey Games. Available in Print for $19.99 and in PDF for $12.00. 84 pages.
A Goblin Is You!
A crafty Foot Goblin, maybe, or a vicious Warg Rider. Or a town-building Hearth Orc or a Troll Driver or a lowly Saltjack or a Goblin Eater Hob, or one of the many other Rotlander folk, striving to survive and bring glory to your home tribe in a land too harsh for humans to claim.
With three new character classes, eight different tribe types, and hundreds of hexes of dangerous territory to explore, In the Shadow of Mount Rotten gives you everything you need for adventures of a very different kind. This all-in-one sourcebook includes:
  • New PC classes: Warriors, bound by martial honor and forbidden to negotiate; Shamans, sensitive to the many hauntings and spirits that lurk just behind the surface of things; and Mongers, scraping together together the means of tribal survival while dodging the blows of the haughty Warriors.
  • New spells and spellcasting for Shamans.
  • Reputation: You can’t level up unless you earn the tribe’s respect!
  • Ransom: What are you worth to the tribe? Plus the grim results if demands aren’t met.
  • Warrior’s Honor and how it varies by race and home tribe.
  • Tribal lifestyles: Settlements, hierarchies, hunting and gathering, herding and enslaving, mating and child rearing, and habits of war.
  • Slave gangs and indentured populations.
  • Scrapper dogs, gnoll packs, ogre clans, and cannibalism.
  • Hunting for meat and hides; curing and selling carcasses, skins, and furs.
  • What Befalls the Tribe: A hit from a poker deck determines what boon or threat comes to the tribe to challenge the PCs.
  • Gold is no good here! A simple economy based on barter, salt, iron, and bronze.
  • Complete gear lists for people on the edge of the Bronze Age. New equipment, loot trade-in, regional pricing, and what happens when Rotlander gear clashes with superior Southron arms.
  • Adventure locations like the tradetown Rotmoot, salt-rich Selkirk, and the Hellmouth of Goblin Knob.
  • Who lives where, and how much turf each tribe needs to feed itself.
  • Encounters charts for eight distinct regions, plus Oddities and the dangerous Spirit Encounters that mark the Rotlands as a haunted place.
  • Caves and mining, with nine real types of cave, underground lakes and rivers, and mining possibilities from clay to gold.
  • Caravans: wagons, cargos, crew, and guards.
  • Bulk trade goods and contact with human realms and the orkin of Mor.
  • A full-color map that stands alone or fits with the Known Realms open setting from Goblinoid Games™.
So. A Maggot God, You Say...

The Virtuous and the Vile: Morithal, Lord of Unceasing Hunger by Allen Taliesen. Clockwork Gnome Publishing. Available in PDF for $1.50. 11 pages. (an 18 page PF version, is also avail. for $3.00)

Since the beginning of time, the Maggot God has burrowed his way through the earth, indulging a hunger that can never be satiated. Morithal is an artifact from another time, a being who survived the fall of one multiverse and the birth of another. Cursed with a unending desire to consume, He Who Gnaws has hollowed out vast caverns beneath the earth and these have become the subterranean realm of the dark elves, derro, and other depraved creatures. Despite his repulsive nature, Morithal's followers are powerful and many. His cults are everywhere and each of them is tasked with a single goal: to bring about the reign of their god so that he might consume the stars and cast all the worlds of the Material Plane into eternal night.

Inspired by the works of classic writers such as H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, Morithal, Lord of Unceasing Hunger presents an evil cult that can be easily dropped into any campaign. While designed for Labyrinth Lord this book can be effortlessly used with your old school fantasy roleplaying game of choice.
The Virtuous and the Vile: Morithal, Lord of Unceasing Hunger includes:
  • An overview of Morithal, his origins, myths, and other traits.
  • Information on the cults of the Maggot God, their goals, and the benefits of their faith.
  • New spells that embody the horrid hunger of the Maggot God.
  • Two new monsters, the walking hunger and the fragment of Paranvoi, who embody Morithal's unceasing need to feed.

Nod #13 by John Stater. Available in PDF for $3.50 (print should be forthcoming.) 115 pages.
NOD enters its third year of existence with this issue, and it's received a minor facelift.
This issue contains ...
The Evolutionary PC class - with some simple stats for using the future men as alien races in Space Princess
Abaddon and Gehenna - the third and fourth circles of Hell dedicated to gluttony and avarice respectively
Hero vs. Villain - this one featuring Zanzibar the magician and Greymalkin, the speed demon
Dual Helms - magical helms for two
Greatsword - rules to my card game of medieval one-on-one combat
Pandaemonium VI - featuring Amon, Demoriel, Mammon, Mulciber and Paymon
Shades of Red - variant red dragons

Loviatar #8 by Christian Walker. Available in Print for $3.50. 24 pages.
Heading west from Hex 001 the PCs will arrive in Hex 004. This month's issue is dedicated entirely to sandbox goodness. In Hex 004 the party will visit the hamlet of Dorim. While there they will able to participate in an auction to purchase an otyugh. (The citizens of the hamlet raise them in a pit.) Dorim and its environs are rife with threats. First and foremost is Constable Gantry, a murderous fellow who doesn't take kindly to strangers. There is a giant viper living in some abandoned knocker tunnels. It is cunning and intelligent from a steady diet of humans and demi-humans. PCs might also run afoul of larcenous gnomes, enraged badgers and restless nature spirits. Onward to adventure!
Loviatar no. 8 is produced in digest format with a cardstock cover. It is 24 pages long and is printed in black and white on 24 pound, bright white paper.
Time for Another Free Game!

Flying Swordsmen by Dennis Laffey. Available for Free PDF download. 112 pages.
Welcome to the home of the Flying Swordsmen Role Playing Game. Flying Swordsmen is a game of fantasy martial arts, where characters use swords, fists, spells, and more to battle other martial artists and monsters, and seek out new techniques or magic to improve their martial skill.

Players take on the role of a Fighter, Wizard, Shaman or Thief, and can customize their martial arts abilities as they advance in level. The Stunt system allows players to create the sorts of wild and crazy abilities and moves seen in Wuxia (fantasy martial arts) movies and comics.

If you've played tabletop RPGs before, then go ahead and download the free rulebook and enjoy! Flying Swordsmen is built using the algorithms of older editions of the world's most popular fantasy RPG, and takes direct inspiration from a "lost" martial arts game built on those same rules. It's compatible with older editions of the game, and like other modern simulacra, is based on the OGL.

A New Release from Pacesetter Games

I2 Beyond the Black Wall by Bill Barsh. Pacesetter Games & Simulations. Available in Print for $12.00.
Beyond the Black Wall is an adventure module for the First Edition Game, compatible with OSRIC™, and designed for a single 3rd level character. This module includes Pacesetter’s SoloSystem™ for enhanced individual play.
Your hunt for the fabled Green Flame, a jewel of unparalleled beauty and value, has led you deep into the wild. Guided by unreliable research and gut instinct you search for an ancient city that has been dead for centuries. Your only clue is that the city is guarded by a towering black wall. Somehow, you know the city must exist and that it surely harbors the Green Flame. Undaunted, you set yourself to face the horrors and dangers that lie beyond the black wall!
Sniderman Finishes his Thundarr Sourcebook!

The World of Thundarr the Barbarian by Sniderman. Available in PDF for Free! 68 pages!
In July 2009, I beganThundarr Thursday here atThe Savage AfterWorld -- taking a facet of the classic post-apocalyptic cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian and converting that creature, item, character, or adventure for use with Mutant Future. Over the years, I accumulated quite a bit of material -- enough to produce a free-to-download sourcebook of the Thundarr universe for use in your games. And, as always, it's free and available to download over yonder in the right-hand column.
I've updated the book every so often, whenever I had new material to add. However, I've pretty well covered all I can with this excellent show, as the last new Thundarr sourcebook update was back in June last year. So, sadly, I'm going to call the Thundarr sourcebook "finalized" as I will not be adding any new material to it. I have updated the file one last time -- adding a back cover sheet to it as well as an additional blank page, upping the page count to a printer-friendly 68 pages. In fact, this is the final version I used for my recent test of MagCloud's services. So if you've been wondering when Snider was going to consider this sourcebook finished, the answer is "today." Click on the cover image or the right-hand column link to download the most recent update -- and last one ever -- of the Thundarr sourcebook. Enjoy!
Mazes & Minotaurs Makes Me Happy!

Minotaur Quarterly #10 edited by Olivier Legrand. Available for Free PDF download! 105 pages.
Giant-sized (100+ pages!) issue with a mega-section on Charybdis, the Dark Continent of Mythika, including a complete gazetteer, Charybdian adventurers, creatures, magic and mythic items and an epic adventure; also includes a bonus dossier on the Middle Sea, islands & colonies and some new marine creatures!
Product Updates!

the venomous pao has issued his Revised LL/AEC Rogues Gallery. 34 pages of free gaming goodness!

V1.2 of the Adventures Dark and Deep playtest PDF's by Joe Bloch are available for Free download.

She Turned Me Into a Newt!

Stewart Robertson made a Witch for B/X D&D! Available as a Free 1-page PDF.

Eight Days Left for the Dwimmermount Kickstarter!

James Maliszewski's Dwimmermount! $40 gets you the Print HC & PDF combo, shipping included! See the Kickstarter page for other support levels!

The gates of Dwimmermount are opening. After years of rumors, it is time to discover the secrets of this legendary dungeon for yourself.
With your support we reached our essential funding target in just two days! Achieving bonus goal #1 means that each backer will get a PDF of the original campaign notes and other artifacts from Dwimmermount's development, which are being donated to the Play-Generated Maps and Documents Archive and the Science Fiction Research Collection of Texas A&M University. Your pledge now helps us work towards bonus goal #2 - a hidden sub-level of the dungeon, exclusively available to our Kickstarter supporters!
And 9 More Days for A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore!

Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore! $30 for the softcover and $60 for the hardcover. See the Kickstarter page for more info and support levels!

Adventures Dark and Deep is an attempt to explore what the world's most popular role-playing game might have looked like if its creator had been allowed to continue developing it, rather than leaving TSR in 1985.
This work is based on extensive research into Gary Gygax's public statements about his vision for the next edition of the game, using the game's 1st edition rules as a jumping off point. It's not a retro-clone, but an entirely new game with a very familiar feel.
Some of the changes and additions include new character classes such as the bard, jester, mystic, savant, and mountebank, plus scores of new spells for them. It has a new combat system that's smoother than the original and yet fully compatible with it, all at the same time. There are new monsters and magic items, including a system to allow for any sort of magic weapon to have almost any weapon power; you can have a spear of venom or a sword of thunderbolts. Plus much more.
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is designed to be a rules supplement suitable for use with almost any other game that's compatible with the 1st edition rules. It's completely modular, so if you want to just take one or two of the classes, or just use the combat system and some of the monsters, or take the whole thing and plug it into your game, you're able to. It's all also compatible with existing adventures and settings, so there's almost no conversion work needed.
Both projects have surpassed their initial funding goals and are working towards bonuses! Congratulations guys!

What I'm Pimping This Week!

OSRIC (A5 Printing from Usherwood Publishing.) Available in Softcover for $13.50.
This compact A5 trim available exclusively through James D. Kramer design services contains the OSRIC rules, complete with indexes.
I switched from AD&D to OSRIC, last game session. Partly because several of my players don't have their own access to the AD&D PH and I wanted them to be able to readily download the rules. And since I'm running the game at someone else's house, the less gear I have to lug around, the better!

The OSRIC A5 printing is nice and compact! It's a perfect travel-sized compendium of 1st edition gaming goodness! Here's a pic showing its size in relation to my Black Blade/Usherwood and Lulu hardcovers.
Daddy, Mommy & Baby OSRIC
 About The News
Unless otherwise noted, all links to products and files are to the individual authors sites, pertinent posts, or sales pages. I don’t link directly to files, unless that is the only link available. The OSR News is produced as a service to the community and is entirely a non-commercial endeavor on my part. I have received no remuneration for advertising or reporting on any of the items appearing herein. Occasionally, the News might feature an item, which the author has sent me a complimentary copy of, for purposes of writing a review.
As always, the What I’m Pimping This Week section of the OSR News and its accompanying blog widget, feature products which I have purchased (or items which are available for free download) and wish to support. At times, the item I'm pimping may be one which I received a complimentary review copy of, from the author or publisher. No one has asked me to spotlight their material in this section and I have received no payment of any kind for doing so.
Please feel free to send me information on any new releases, events, or other items of interest, which you would like to see mentioned.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Mete Revised Map

Open in new window for larger version.

Revised the map last week. Kinda ironic, since I ran Death Frost Doom, Friday night. Play report still coming.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

If you have an OSR Blog...

Yesterday, a reader let me know that he was getting one of those nasty Malware warning screens, when loading my blog. This was due to a link in my blogroll to an infected site. 

Of course, Blogger rolls have been broken for months. If you have 167 (or 168?) or more blogs in your roll, you can no longer edit the damn thing. 

So, I nuked my blogroll. Been meaning to re-arrange things, anyway.

Thanks to Tenkar, whose roll I used to start rebuilding The 666 Layers of the OSR Blogoverse. 

Anywho, until Blogger fixes the problem I'm partitioning said 666 Layers into separate parts of 100 blogs each. 
Any non-OSR blogs will get their own roll. Aside from Tenkar, I've relied on a few other folks and my own memory to rebuild the link list. Meaning, I've no doubt missed several blogs. Not to mention all the new ones, of which I'm unaware.

So, if you have an OSR, Old School, etc., kinda blog, please leave a comment or drop me a line.